Drowning Statistics and Prevention

Contributed article in our social services series. Enjoy! – Kimberly

As leaders, we have a duty to be more responsible than others, even when we’re relaxing at the beach or on a boat.

As such, it’s important to learn drowning prevention tips to help ourselves and others, with what is an easily-avoidable cause of death.

Below, we’ll give some drowning statistics to show you exactly what’s at stake, and then we’ll help you do your part in preventing some of these terrible accidents.

(The post below is an excerpt. If you want to know more, you can read the full article on Happiness Without.)

Drowning Statistics

General Statistics

  • 320,000 people drowned worldwide in 2016
  • Approximately ten people drown every day in the U.S for a total of 3,536 every year between 2005 and 2014
  • 20% of those fatalities were under the age of 14. 
  • For non-fatalities, about 50% require emergency room attention and/or transfer to further care (compared to 6% for non-drowning-related injuries). Non-fatal injuries can include brain damage and long-term disabilities.
  • An additional 332 people perished in boating-related drowning incidents

Drowning By Country/Location

  • Countries with lower standards of living see higher drowning numbers. ~90% of drownings worldwide come from low and middle-income countries
  • Half of the total drownings come in the coastal regions designated by WHO (World Health Organization) as the West-Pacific and Southeast Asia Regions. 
  • Death rates are highest in the WHO Africa region which can be 15-20 times higher than those in Western European Countries

Cost Of Drownings

  • About 45% of drownings in the U.S involve those that are “economically active.”
  • The U.S spends, directly and indirectly, about $273 million a year in response to these incidents
  • In countries with similar access to water but smaller populations like Australia and Canada, the cost is $85 million and $173 million

Drowning Prevention

Drowning Prevention While Boating

Every boat should come with the Coast Guard approved safety equipment which includes flares and the appropriate number of floatation devices. Before leaving the dock, ensure that there is a life jacket available for everyone on board.

Driving a boat should be treated like a car. You wouldn’t drive a car under the influence. The same policy applies for boats.

Take a boater safety class and learn the “rules of the road.” If going out with a friend, ask them about their experience and what sort of training they’ve received.

File a float plan with someone. Tell them where you’re going, when you’ll be back, and who to call if you don’t check in by a specific time.  

Drowning Prevention For Adults

Even for adults that are accomplished swimmers, drowning is a serious risk in cold water. Just because you can swim doesn’t mean you’re immune from the risk. Many adults assume they can bypass the bulky hassle of a life jacket because, “I’m a good swimmer.”

But falling into cold water (less than 60 degrees) can have serious effects on your body from the moment you hit the water, causing muscles to seize and panic to set in. If you fall from a sizable height or speed, you may sink dozens of feet before you can make your way to the surface. A life jacket also orientates you face up in the event that you’re unconscious. 

At the beach always swim in the designated areas. Chances are the areas closed off to swimming are closed for a reason. Strong surf, currents, riptides, or other underwater hazards may be looming. 

What To Do If You Witness A Drowning

Image Source

Who To Call

If you see someone struggling, it’s tempting to throw caution to the wind and leap in after them. It’s important to do an assessment of the situation before diving in. What’s the reason that they’re struggling? You won’t be much use if you put yourself in danger too.

If at a public pool or beach, immediately notify a lifeguard if there is one. Even if it’s your own child or loved one, odds are good the few seconds it takes to notify a skilled professional is worth it. 

If you’re in a situation where there is no professional help or it’s too far away to assist, you still shouldn’t jump in the water immediately. Call for help and get the attention of any other boats or beach goers. Always keep your eye on the party in danger. 

If you have access to a radio, get on channel 16 and report that there’s someone in the water along with your position and a description of the person in distress. Jumping in after them should be the last resort. If you have someone with you, tell them to stay near the radio or phone.

If you’re on a boat, hopefully it’s properly stocked with safety equipment. Operate slowly with people in the water. When you’re within throwing range, toss everything that floats toward the drowning person. Anything they can grab onto will buy them time for help to arrive.


These instructions are not meant to replace CPR training. A proper course and certification is strongly recommended. These steps should only be used on adults and children. Not infants.

  • Check for Breathing: Look to see if their chest is moving. Place your ear near their mouth. Can you feel or hear air?
  • If they’re not breathing, check for a pulse. It will be strongest at the neck, though the wrist will work too. Check for ten seconds.
  • If there’s no pulse, start CPR:
    • Place the heel of your hand on the center of the chest. 
    • Press down ~2-inches, do not press on the ribs
    • Continue chest compressions at a rate of 100-120/minute
    • Check to see if the person is breathing
    • If not, tilt their head back and lift chin
    • Pinch their nose close, take a normal breath, and create a tight seal over their mouth with yours
    • Exhale two normal, two second breaths, watching their chest rise
    • Follow with 30 seconds of chest compressions
    • Repeat until help arrives


Many drowning incidents are preventable, making them all the more tragic.

Hopefully, after reading this article you have a better understanding of the potential risks. By implementing a few safety measures and practicing good safety habits, the risk of drownings can be greatly minimized. 

Add in a CPR class and learning proper boating techniques can make all the difference for you and your loved ones. Hopefully, you never need these skills, but if you do, you’ll be glad you have them.

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